On Jan. 31, Medical Director of the Health Services Department Davis Smith sent out an all-campus email to provide advice on preventing or dealing with gastroenteritis, a disease commonly known as stomach flu caused by noroviruses. This note was sent after Smith became aware of norovirus outbreaks in both New Britain and Boston. Smith described the email as preemptive in nature, intending to offer medical advice on how to avoid the virus.
“This virus has a behavior pattern that makes it tend to be more active in the later months,” Smith said. “Because I know a lot of students go to Boston [over break], it seemed like a good idea to get out ahead of the curve. There’s no harm in people being more attentive to hand washing, and if we can prevent having an outbreak on campus, that would be great.”
In addition to continued hand washing, Smith suggested that people avoid sharing food or other personal items to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. He also recommended that any person who becomes ill should rest and avoid contact with other people until the virus is no longer contagious, approximately 72 hours after symptoms appear.
“Hopefully this will make everyone a little more attentive and prevent this from becoming an outbreak,” Smith said.
Currently, the virus has spread to what Smith described as the standard number of students. The last time a major outbreak of the norovirus occurred at the University was in the winter of 2005 when, according to Smith, hundreds of people became sick in a matter of weeks. However, he believed that the virus would probably not become a major problem so long as everyone follows the advice he sent out.
“Hand washing is very effective,” Smith said. “A couple of the students I’ve seen have commented on the message, so I think people are seeing it. Hopefully people are being a little more attentive [about hand washing] or remaining appropriately attentive. So I’m hopeful that it will help and I don’t have a high level of concern that [the virus] will be an issue.”